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ECONOMÍA Y DESARROLLO RURAL Service delivery systems for natural resource stakeholders: targeting, information and communication functions and policy considerations Sistemas para el suministro de servicios
ECONOMÍA Y DESARROLLO RURAL Service delivery systems for natural resource stakeholders: targeting, information and communication functions and policy considerations Sistemas para el suministro de servicios a usuarios de recursos naturales: enfoque, funciones de información y comunicación y consideraciones de política Ricardo Ramírez 1 and Rebecca A. Lee 2 ABSTRACT The emerging trend in the literature is an acknowledgment that no single approach to rural service delivery will satisfy the needs of all natural resource users. Rural resources users are grouped broadly into farm families with access to markets, rural communities with diversified livelihoods that include onfarm income, and communities that access common property resources as part of their livelihoods. Each group has very distinct needs, and in many cases privatized systems leave out those that are least able to link to markets. The potential of alternative systems is explored with a theoretical foundation based on systems thinking, knowledge systems, and the applied fields of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and communication for development. The paper projects three complementary types of service delivery levels that respond to three broad natural resource groups: farmers with access to markets, subsistence households with migrant family members, and community organizations and federations. For each of these groups, the scenarios address the level of analysis and action, service delivery levels, the nature of the information sought, and the communication functions that best respond to each groups needs. A second projection describes several ICT demand and supply issues that require clarification for each major group of stakeholders. A third projection describes the strategic planning dimension, with emphasis on the characteristics of the outcomes and outputs in terms of natural r esource and information and communication. The paper closes with a review of the principles that may help guide the design of the different targeted delivery systems. Key words: natural resources, rural services, information and communication technology, targeting, projection RESUMEN Hay una creciente aceptación de que no existe un único enfoque para el suministro de servicios rurales que pueda satisfacer las necesidades de todos los usuarios de los recursos naturales. Agrupamos a los usuarios según las siguientes categorías: familias agrícolas con acceso a mercados, comunidades rurales con ingresos derivados de una variedad de actividades, y comunidades con acceso a recursos de propiedad común. Cada grupo tiene necesidades particulares y en muchos casos los sistemas privatizados dejan por fuera aquellos con menos capacidad para relacionarse con los mercados. Exploramos el potencial de sistemas alternativos basado en: el enfoque de sistemas, sistemas de conocimiento, las tecnologías de comunicación e información (TIC) y la comunicación para el desarrollo. Se proyectan tres tipos de entrega de servicios que responden a tres grupos de usuarios de recursos naturales: productores con acceso a mercados, hogares con producción de subsistencia y organizaciones comunitarias. Para cada grupo, se contempla el nivel de análisis y acción y de entrega de servicios, la naturaleza de la información buscada, y las funciones de la comunicación. Una segunda proyección describe los temas de demanda y oferta de TIC para cada grupo. Una tercera proyección aborda la dimensión de planificación estratégica, con énfasis en las características de los resultados e impacto en términos de recursos naturales y de información y comunicación. El artículo concluye con una revisión de aquellos principios que pueden ayudarnos en el diseño de los diferentes sistemas de entrega de servicios que responden a las necesidades de cada grupo de usuarios. Palabras clave: recursos naturales, servicios rurales, tecnología de comunicación de información, suministro de servicios, proyección. Introduction During the last few decades a major policy thrust in rural development in both developing and industrialized countries has been the privatization and decentralization of rural service delivery (Beijer and Holtman, 2001). In developing countries, rural agricultural extension systems that were centrally staffed by governmental departments are now the responsibility of local governments. The new services are often publicly funded but privately delivered. Fecha de recepción: febrero 12 de Aceptado para publicación: octubre 1 de Independent researcher-consultant. Guelph, Ontario, Canada. 2 Executive director, Colombian Centre for Innovation in Floriculture - Ceniflores, Bogotá, Colombia. Agronomía Colombiana 25(2), , 2007 The agricultural extension staff of the past are being asked to become consultants and bid for technical advice contracts tendered through local governments. In the case of agricultural extension, privatization is subject to a wide range of service delivery options and hence of interpretations. A simple transfer of the extension programme from public to private responsibility has been found to be insufficient as the problems of the public mechanism also get passed on (Beijer and Holtman, 2001). Chapman and Tripp (2003) explore a range of cases including purely market-based extension services, extension services linked to private provision of inputs or purchase of outputs, cost-recovery schemes for public services, and public programmes that provide a partial subsidy for private extension providers. Table 1 shows the range of options for extension service financing and provision. There are several examples of publicly-funded, privately delivered extension services using contracts and vouchers. These approaches aim to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of extension services by creating a competitive environment along with mechanisms for quality control (Rivera and Zijp, 2002). One of the key variables across the different strategies is the value of information and farmers willingness to pay for it. Alex et al. (2002) suggest that the diverse types of information need to be channelled through a range of services: Information closely associated with market goods (i.e. purchased inputs) is best left to the private sector; Information associated with toll goods can be effectively provided by combined public and private sector efforts; Information relative to management of common pool goods (water, forests, common grazing lands) is best provided by cooperative or voluntary institutions; and Only when market and participation failures are high should information provision be financed by the public sector, and even in these cases, the public sector might well finance private sector delivery (Alex et al., 2002: 13). The emerging trend in the literature is an acknowledgment that no single approach to rural service delivery will satisfy the needs of all natural resource users. For the purposes of this paper we broadly group rural resources users into farm families with access to markets, rural communities TablE 1. Mixed strategies for financing and providing extension (Kidd et al., 2000). Financing extension Public finance Private finance Providing extension Public provision Private provision Subsidies to private extension, extension Free public extension service contracts, voucher schemes Cost-recovery by government Private enterprise agents with diversified livelihoods that include on-farm income, and communities that access common property resources pastures, watershed, forests as part of their livelihoods. Each group has very distinct needs, and in many cases privatized systems leave out those that are least able to link to markets. Key variables that will need to be taken into account when considering delivery strategies in the future include the value of information and farmers willingness to pay for it, the diverse types of information to be channelled, and the integration of delivery systems, user groups and technology into policy making and planning efforts. This is the challenge this paper addresses. Theoretical and contextual background We explore the potential of alternative systems using a theoretical foundation based on systems thinking and knowledge systems, as well as the applied fields of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and communication for development. In particular, we consider that communication and information are key dimensions of agricultural knowledge and information systems (AKIS), that communication is a strategic element for innovation in natural resource management (Ramírez and Quarry, 2004a) and that ICTs need to embedded in people s existing information and communication networks first and must respond to their needs, rather than create a new set of expectations driven by outside forces (Allen et al., 2001, Pretty, 1994). ICTs must be demand-driven (Heeks, 2002) and appropriate to specific situations on the basis of who is involved, what information they seek and what decisionmaking process that information is meant to facilitate. Information and communication in the context of pluralism and sustainable livelihoods Communication and information are key dimensions of agricultural knowledge and information systems, especially within the AKIS perspective. In the past, information was seen as flowing from a centralized expert source in a 358 Agron. Colomb. 25(2) 2007 unidirectional fashion to information users. However, as the plurality of relevant stakeholders has received attention, their multiple information flows have become evident. The realization that all stakeholders are nodes in a network of information exchange -at times providing information and at other times demanding it- has created a new context for communication and information planning (Lawrence, 1995; O Farrell, 2001; Ramírez, 1997; Biggs and Matsaert, 2004). The strategic use of a wide range of methods and media to support learning among stakeholders has gained prominence (Ramírez, 1999). Major stakeholder groups will exhibit their own and unique set of information needs and communication channel preferences; no one-fits-all approach or system is expected. It is therefore not surprising that agricultural extension analysts are acknowledging that different groups will need specific advice systems that respond to their unique predicament (Alex et al., 2002; Rivera, 2001). For those groups that are not able to link to markets, privatized agricultural advice systems may be of limited relevance in terms of productivity increases. In other cases they may be relevant in terms of reducing the costs of production for self-consumption. Beyond those groups that are not closely linked to markets, will also lie those whose livelihood depends on having access to forests and grasslands under open access regimes. In these cases they will be engaged in natural resource management strategies at another level of analysis (larger landscape areas), one where once again privatized agronomic services will not be of relevance. This third group will need methodologies for collaborative management and other approaches that respond specifically to their needs (Borrini-Feyerabend et al., 2000; Borrini-Feyerabend, 1996). Communication for development Communication for Development refers to the use of communication processes, techniques and media to help people towards a full awareness of their situation and their options for change, to resolve conflicts, to work towards consensus, to help people plan actions for change and sustainable development, to help people acquire the knowledge and skills they need to improve their condition and that of society, and to improve the effectiveness of institutions (Fraser and Restrepo-Estrada, 1998: 63). In other words, it is much broader than simply using media to convey information. Its role and potential respond rather well to the notion of sustaining multiple livelihoods. Communication is now perceived as a strategic element for innovation in natural resource management (Ramírez and Quarry, 2004a). Communication for Development has several distinct functions. Fraser and Restrepo-Estrada (1998) talk about educational, institutional, and social communication to underscore its educational, policy, and empowerment dimensions. Röling (1994) in turn suggests three functions: I. Educational communication - making things visible: this is about transferring know-how, which Röling describes as central to the transfer of technology approach (TOT) which was the hallmark of the training and visit systems (T & V). II. Making policies known: broadcasting norms and regulations, a function that governmental organizations and institutions readily embrace. III. Facilitative communication: establishing platforms for stakeholder interaction, learning, and negotiation. This is a function associated with facilitated group interaction and learning processes, sometimes at the grassroots, other times across different levels of analysis (Lightfoot et al., 2001). Additional functions can be added that address timesensitive communication (prices, weather, etc.) and organizational learning. Table 2 provides further analysis of major communication functions with attention to their purpose, who initiates the effort and on what ground success may be gauged. The fifth function communication for development, is based on active interaction between experiences in the field and adjustment within the extension process. Where electronic communication was first a one-way information provider, then a two-way discussion medium with the Internet, it can now progress to the Hypernet with smart communicating devices everywhere linking to the Internet (Tapscott, 2004, 1995). Examples include climatic information collected from a network of meteorological stations that can be downloaded onto an operator-less platform that analyzes the data for subsequent use by farmers (examples of such networks can be found in Spain in the horticultural sector of Murcia and Almería, and in Colombia, in the sugar cane and coffee sectors). Qualifying the power of information The type of barriers organizations and individuals face are not just about access to information and technology; they often also involve mental barriers (Weber, 2001) as well as 2007 Ramírez and Lee: Service delivery systems for natural resource stakeholders Table 2. Communication functions and their attributes (adapted from Ramírez and Quarry, 2004b). Communication function Purposes Initiator Evidence of success Policy communication: Managing the external environment Making policies, programmes, and the evolving procedures known Governmental agency Stakeholders demonstrate awareness by applying procedures or suggesting modifications to them Educational communication: Making things known, sharing knowledge Making technical know-how accessible to increase knowledge about the production, transformation, organization and marketing dimensions of agriculture; including price information. Worldwide there is a trend towards a closer engagement by farmers in the technology development and adaptation process in contrast with the conventional role of passive receiver of extension messages Service providers and farmers (with training on accessing content and transforming it) Service providers are able to seek and find information sources and repackage materials for farmer learning. Farmers adopt practices or reject them knowledgeably; farmers utilize communication methods and media to enhance farmerto-farmer linkages Social or facilitative communication: Platforms for participation and debate Providing platforms for stakeholders to exchange perspectives, explore new ideas and programmes, appreciate differences of opinions, negotiate common goals, develop partnerships, propose changes to programmes and become confident participants able to articulate needs and opinions Farmer groups, district authorities, service providers, and local groups/organizations Stakeholders participate, become empowered, take action, and take ownership over the programme Time sensitive communication Keeping in touch with family, prices and weather 3 access to a public pay phone or cellular phone Anybody, especially those with The private sector expands infrastructure to respond to growing rural demand; rural projects and the private sector finds ways to provide agricultural, health and educational content that is timesensitive in a cost-effective manner Communication for learning Listening actively; inviting feedback for course correction Government organization; sectorbased research centre The organization adjusts procedures on the basis of field experiences and keeps stakeholders informed about the changes and process for future evolution finding applications that actually reduce costs or improve their negotiating power. The digital divide is not only about having access to a computer and an affordable phone line (Van Dijk, 2001). Whether and how the technology is used depends on a series of factors and constraints linked to the farmers socio-cultural and economical context and the interaction with the new information received. A better understanding of the factors that determine the use of information, and how risk is perceived on the basis of those factors, will improve both farmers and facilitators ability to create new or build on existing learning platforms. Research about telecentres has shown that information and communication technology investments need to be developed as part of an integrated rural development strategy; otherwise they are likely to offer services that are not relevant nor affordable to local users (Parkinson and Ramírez, 2006; Parkinson, 2005). In order for farmers to be able to make informed decisions and weigh the associated risk, appropriate information must be available, they must have access to it, and be motivated to access it. The information must provide the means to design systems that work, are appropriate, and that are acceptable at the same time to the farmers (Lee, 2002). The system must be in line with or be supported by national and/or international policy. Let us look at these points more closely, as we are moving beyond a focus solely on the characteristics of agricultural information provided, to appreciate the predicament of those that are on the demand side of information. 1. Availability of appropriate information. As Hansen points out, information must address a need that is both real and perceived, provide viable decision options and be relevant to viable decisions (2002). More and better information is needed, as well as building the capacity to 3 The business case for many telecentres and for all private telephone operators is based on the willingness to pay by all people for phone calls and services. It is the demand for phone services that drives the expansion of rural and remote telecommunications infrastructure. 360 Agron. Colomb. 25(2) 2007 innovate based on increasing knowledge, as suggested by Staver (2002). He describes the case of Central American agriculture, in which research institutions gradually moved from recommending varieties and inputs packages, to recommendations based on integrated pest management (IPM) strategies targeting specific pests, and finally to using local resources to substitute imported inputs. As a result, the farmers have turned to working with ecological processes based on their abilities for observation, experimentation and decisionmaking (Staver, 2002). 2. Access to information. Due to geographical, educational, social, cultural or other circumstances, farmers have varying degrees of access to information. In isolated areas, information exchange will no doubt be restricted to informal networks among the locals. As distance to large centres decreases and education level increases, farmers tend to demand more of information distribution channels such as extension syst
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